Ok.  Here it is.  I’ve been promising this one for a long time, and have finally gotten around to it.

Braising is a great thing to know how to do, and once you get a feel for the general technique you can apply it to all sorts of meats and even veg.  There are lots of different attitudes about braising.  Michael Psilakis has a recipe for braising goat that involves LOTS of liquid.  To me, braising is a pretty dry affair though.  Quite distinct from stewing, which is another way to slowly slowly make tougher meats fall apart and be delicious!

That is the crux of the thing.  Braising allows you to render otherwise tough meats completely tender.  Lamb shanks are the perfect first thing to try, because there’s really very little else you can do with them!!  They are simply some of the nicest meat on the lamb, and yet are super cheap here in the U.S., because no one seems to know how to cook them!  We WIN!

So here’s how it goes.  Don’t blink, it’s pretty simple.

Liberally salt and pepper the lamb.  In a nice heavy pan, brown the meat in some oil.  Pull it out and reserve.  Immediately, toss garlic and mirepoix (that’s french for celery, carrots, and onion) into the oil.  Saute the veg until it gets a little tender.  You’ll notice that JUST the liquid from the veg goes a long way to deglazing much of the meaty bits that are browned onto the pan.  Deglaze the pan properly by adding some red wine.  Arrange the meat in the pan.  Salt and pepper.  Add herbs (in this case I used thyme and rosemary).  Cover it up and put it in a nice slow oven.  275 or so.  300 maybe.  I don’t know, my oven dial isn’t accurate.

That’s it.  You’re done.  Now you just wait.  I suggest napping with your dog..  or perhaps taking a nice bath with a glass of bourbon.  Doesn’t matter.  You’ll find something good to do.  One of the great things about braising is that it really does the work on its own.  You can get it going, and then have plenty of time to clean up the kitchen, and do prep work for whatever else you’re eating, without having to worry too much about the last minute timing of the meat.

How long it takes will depend on the size of the piece of meat, and the actual temperature that you landed on!  But count on three hours or so.  Nice and slow.

Once you’ve got a handle on this technique, you can start inventing..  Sometimes for a nice mexican braised pork, I’ll brown a shoulder rubbed with cumin, and braise it over celery and onions, using Lime and Tequila as the liquid.  Same technique, totally different outcome.

Short ribs love to be braised.  Brisket! DUCK LEGS!!!

So, the fundamentals are..  browned meat, some sort of veg content (usually some variation on mirepoix), and a little liquid (it helps if the liquid has some acid content), heavy dutch oven type pot with a tight fitting lid.  Low low temperature, for a long time.  That’s it.

I won’t go into the potatoes and chard here.  Pretty self explanatory.  But I will just mention the mint pesto.  Last night was the first time I did it this way, and it was really pretty wonderful.  Mint, fresh lemon zest, garlic, olive oil, some sherry vinegar, and *gasp* a little sugar.  Zizz it up in a food processor and eat.  Do this right before you serve so that the pesto doesn’t go all dark and unappealing.

OK.  Enjoy.

Let me know if I left anything out.

OH, as a side note:  Sam Amidon stopped by while I was editing this, to talk about some music videos that I’m going to make for him.  We decided to throw “Way go Lily” on the top to see how it felt.  He loved it..  thought it had the vibe of a Kanye remix.  Sam is a tremendous artist, and you can listen to that track and others on his website.  (Once you’re there, if you follow the videos link, you’ll find a video that I made for him YEARS ago).

UPDATE! Holly asked if there was anything worthwhile to do with the leftover mirepoix/brazing liquid. There is, for SURE. If you skim off some of the fat (no all), and then toss the whole mess into a food processor, you can zizz it into a really tasty sauce. Return it to the pan after processing, pour in a bit of cream, put a little heat under it, and let it reduce just a little. Refresh it with a little fresh thyme. It’s not the prettiest stuff in the world.. Sort of an orange brown gook. But SUPER tasty.

0 Replies to “SHANKS!”

  1. oh yeah! first comment!
    best video yet. i love the interlude napping and bathing… a very important part of the process.
    again, i think the last shot of beautiful faces gathering around the table is my favorite!
    keep up the good work my friend,

  2. I just looked at my apple and peanut butter and said “I wish you were a braised lamb shank.” It appears to be indifferent to my desire. Damn apple.

  3. beautiful, and culinarily inspirational.

    by the by, you have IMPRESSIVE knife skills. I trust my lamb shanks will still be tasty, even if my celery is not so uniformly chopped!

  4. Looks fabulous – going to try the recipe (esp. the pesto) this week. Great video. I also like the bit where you have three hours alone with bourbon…

  5. That was beautifully composed and shot. Can’t wait to give this a try.
    By the end of my second viewing, I could swear the lyrics to the song were “Leeeeg o’ lamb…”

  6. You, bourbon, amazing food, Putney and Sam Amidon.
    Five of the very best things on this Earth.
    I love beautiful “Way Go Lilly” over the manic talking… (NPR?)

  7. Ezra, do you discard the mirepoix after braising? I should think everything in the pan would be pretty much mush at that point, but perhaps usable for a soup?

  8. You are a bad ass my friend. Energy, style ,substance. Please keep it up, things will be better than fine. I am glad I kinda know you.

  9. PUTNEY!!! SO surprised by the Putney snuggle time in the middle. I’m really loving all these cooking videos. Whether or not I plan to actually try any of these recipes is neither here nor there. Aside from mouthwatering, they’re so artistically shot that I watch them anyway. Love these new food videos.

  10. Thank you all so much!

    Holly! Yeah.. the braising liquid is pretty mushy stuff by the time you’re done. I DO sometimes zizz it up in a food processor and finish it with a little cream.. it makes a beautifully tasty sauce.. though not a very pretty one.. sort of orangey brown gook. Hill said she missed it this last time… I thought the mint pesto was a better accompaniment!

  11. Ezra,

    I view some of your pictures sometimes and I know your cancer story just roughly. I don’t know what you’ve tried so far to fight it. Anyway, I’m writing only to give you the best piece of knowledge I have and it is very simple really. Take the Gerson Therapy and you’ll be healthy again and for long. It’s a all-vegetarian diet therapy and it is highly effective (close to 100%) and it actually heals and doesn’t drain your body out of resources. Just the opposite – it returns strength into each cell so it can be stronger than cancer cells.

    See for more info. Also see a documenatry titled “The Gerson Miracle”. But it’s not a miracle – it’s pure facts and statistics.

    I see you like good food. You’ll like the therapy then.

    Wishing you health for decades to come!


  12. You are such a talented and generous person, many thanks for sharing your cooking knowledge! I really love the tabletop perspective you often film from, where ingredients and technique are center stage. Also enjoy the snippets of your life blended in. Cheers Ezra!

  13. beautiful video ez! beautiful nap! beautiful food! I even think you improved on a beautiful song, Sam should take a recording of those sped up sound effects on tour 😉 miss you lots! when do I get to come up for lamb shanks?! 😉

  14. Wonderful video. I just showed it to my wife, who really loves lamb and the way how you prepare the food. Very inspiring!
    Ezra, stay strong, these two strangers here in germany keep you in their mind.

  15. Thank you all so much for your comments. I’m having a lot of fun making these. It makes is all the sweeter to know that you’re enjoying them.

    Holly- I’m added a little update to the post for you.

  16. I usually do a pork shoulder with leeks, parsnips, and apples, braised in a homemade cider. Last week we braised short ribs in coffee and wine, and chopped the meat up for a shepherd’s pie.

    Keep doing these videos, they’re really great.

  17. I would like to know if there is anything you can’t do… you dance, cook, build stuff, leap buildings in a single bound… please tell me your a horrible singer or really bad at math. Actually, I’m pretty good at a a mix of things too, but I’m physically uncoordinated and incapable of following choreography. I do enjoy reading about your talents and observations on life. Thanks again Ezra.

  18. I love the videos. I esp. am impressed by the way you seem to be using cooking and art as therapy. I use cooking as therapy from the caregivers side, and it’s been invaluable despite the limitations that are put on it from time to time. Just makes me more creative.

    One thought I had about your hair falling out on FOLFOX….is it possible that it is affecting your cells differently in other ways (i.e. cancer fighting ways) as well? This might be for the better. But, I would definitely look to see if there is any information on outcomes within this subset group. Maybe a good poll question for the Colon Club. Also, we were able to talk Hub’s Onc into using a new blood test that checks the level of 5-FU in your system on the day of disconnect. It is called OnDose. Maybe you are getting too much?

  19. I’ve been lurking since October 2010…
    I admire you tremendously.
    You put me to shame as my cancer was so much easier.
    Thank you for all you write.
    My very best wishes and love to you dear stranger.

  20. I love your videos. Here’s what I do with lamb shanks –
    Cawl – welsh lamb stew.
    Throw a couple of shanks in a large pot with water, bay leaf, large chunk carrots onion celery, black peppercorns. ( you can brown it first if you like to do that )
    Simmer for 3 hours.
    Strain liquid and reserve lamb. Pull lamb into pieces.
    Add to the simmering liquid – large pieces of leek ( including green parts) potatoes, carrots, rutabaga (or sub sweet potato if you don’t like rutabaga) and the lamb pieces. Salt and pepper to taste.
    When all is cooked, add lots of finely chopped parsley and a good few teaspoons of mint sauce ( fresh mint finely chopped and mushed with pinch of sugar, pinch of salt, and some vinegar- apple cider or whatever nice one you have on hand).
    Serve with thick chunks of homemade crusty bread.

    I’ll be trying your braising recipe for sure.

  21. Ezra-

    Okay. I watched this video and it made me weep. Just broke my hard little heart wide open. Not because you have cancer, or because of your awesome knife skills, or your beautiful dog, or the beautiful people in your beautiful home, but because you are living what seems to be the most intense and realized kind of existence.

    You are going at life like you’re going to slay it, and I think you will.

    I think you have done.

    You inspire me. You give me hope. You make me hungry.

    I want very much for you to have every happiness this world can offer.



  22. Shanks in oven right NOW. YEAH! Oops…just realised its 8:20 pm….I shall be dining at a very european hour.

    Sadly my le creuset is a 24 hour flight away so I transfered it all into a pyrex dish and tightly foiled it…hope it works.

  23. this made me weepy. i can’t exactly say why. but then i prolly could. you, sam, cooking food, little movies, hillary, putney cuddling, the tub, your warm kitchen (are you guys wearing sweaters and scarfs?! damn you) its all very beautiful. xo

  24. going to attempt this recipe over here in the Astan this week. my girlfriend is visiting in about a month and i want to boost my game. thanks ez

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